How is VR supporting higher education for youth with intellectual disabilities and autism?

Study Description

The connection between higher education and employment for people with disabilities is a growing area of study. Because of the recent emphasis on expanding postsecondary education opportunities for students with intellectual disability in legislation and funding (Higher Education Opportunities Act 2008), it is important to identify how students with ID are or are not supported to access postsecondary education. Previous studies have indicated that 12.7 percent of VR consumers ages 16 to 25 receive postsecondary education and training (National Council on Disability 2008). Most of this literature focuses on students with the disabilities most prevalent in college attendees (for example, learning and physical disabilities, mental health challenges). There is much less of a focus on youth with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A), who have some of the greatest employment challenges. In particular, current literature is lacking regarding the role of the VR program in promoting postsecondary education for students with ID/A. No known reports describe or explore how institutions of higher education (IHEs) and VR have collaborated to jointly serve youth with ID/A. This mixed-methods study includes (1) an analysis of secondary data on inclusive higher education model demonstration programs from the Think College National Coordinating Center (NCC) Data Network, and (2) intensive case studies of three to five IHEs that have established effective partnerships with VR. Results of this study will inform the development of effective VR intervention and practices to support postsecondary education and employment outcomes for youth with ID and autism.

Study Leads and Organizations

  • Meg Grigal – Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Debra Hart – Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston